Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Gifted: The Matchbox Diary

The Matchbox Diary

The Match­box Diary
by Paul Fleis­chman
illus. by Bagram Iba­toulline
Can­dlewick Press, 2013
ISBN 978−0−7636−4601−1

When a young girl vis­its her great-grand­fa­ther for the first time, her imag­i­na­tion swirls with every­thing she sees in his antique shop. He asks her to pick out her favorite item and he will tell her a sto­ry about it. She choos­es a cig­ar box filled with match box­es. As it turns out, this is her great-grandfather’s diary, assem­bled from items, each stored in a match box, that remind him of a cer­tain part of his life … cre­at­ed when he could nei­ther read nor write. One match box con­tains an olive pit, rep­re­sent­ing his child­hood in Italy. Sun­flower seed shells in anoth­er match box count the 19 days of rough ocean trav­el to Amer­i­ca.

Mr. Fleis­chman shares on the back flap that he bor­rowed the idea, with per­mis­sion, from a friend who record­ed his trip to Italy in match box­es … and it only took him 15 years to fig­ure out how to make a book out of that idea.

The Matchbox Diary, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

Great-grand­fa­ther shares a life sto­ry with great-grand­daugh­ter, illus­tra­tion by Bagram Iba­toulline

Bagram Iba­toulline has paint­ed in acrylic gouache, both present-day paint­ings in lumi­nous, warmth-infused col­ors and old­en-days pho­tos that are so real­is­tic in their sepia tones that you expect the peo­ple depict­ed there to talk to you.

I am drawn to this book because it con­nects gen­er­a­tions to his­to­ry, encour­ages shar­ing fam­i­ly his­to­ry as I’m afraid too few peo­ple still do. This is a per­fect gift for grand­par­ents. You could give it to grand­par­ents or, as grand­par­ents, you could give it to your grand­chil­dren and then let them ask you about the items depict­ed in the antique shop: man­tle clocks with mov­ing hands, an oil lamp, a phono­graph, mar­bles … many things that have been sur­passed by new­er tech­nolo­gies, but a way to start a con­ver­sa­tion.

The sto­ry is beau­ti­ful­ly told, heart­warm­ing in all of the right ways, with rich and intel­li­gent lan­guage. Even if there are no grand­par­ents on your gift list, buy it for your­self. We all need our con­nec­tions to the past, the peo­ple who brought us to our mark on the time­line of life.

The Matchbox Diary, illus by Bagram Ibatoulline

Fam­i­ly por­trait, The Match­box Diary, writ­ten by Paul Fleis­chman,
illus­trat­ed by Bagram Iba­toulline

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